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How to run productive hybrid meetings

According to the Guinness World Records, Alex Barron from the UK juggled the most balls – 11 in total – in April 2012. To do this he spent 2 years practising so that he could master this juggling act.

Juggling tasks

How many tasks are you juggling in your workday?

In the business world, it is common to perform juggling acts of multiple meetings and tasks in a day.

And with this juggling act, how productive are your meetings?

Sometimes those juggling balls can come crashing down, making your meetings a frustrating experience for everyone.

In 2020, meetings changed as never before.

It became the year of online meetings. This year has seen a gradual return to the office where many people spend part of their working week in the office and part of it working remotely.

What does this mean for team meetings?

With businesses now having teams or parts of teams in the office on allocated days, hybrid meetings are becoming common.

Now that there is a general comfort with online meetings, the hybrid meeting, with some team members attending in person and others online, is the new challenge.

Do you feel torn between the two groups of participants?

It's easy to focus on the people in the room and forget to a certain extent that the online participants may not see or understand certain nuances that occur in the physical space.

Alternatively, the focus may be on the online participants leaving those in the room wondering why they bothered making the effort to attend in person. It can be a precarious juggling act for the organiser of the meeting.

So how can you make a hybrid meeting valuable for all attendees?

While many of the same rules apply – be kind and respectful, set an agenda, arrive prepared – when it comes to hybrid meetings there are a few things you can do which will make the meeting participants feel included, whether they're attending in person or online. And in turn, a more productive meeting.

To do this, it's important to focus on each of the stages of a meeting.

The three stages to focus on are:

  1. Before the meeting
  2. During the meeting
  3. At the end of the meeting

And to throw a spanner in the works, there's an extra step before these three stages.

Before you even begin to organise the meeting, ask yourself if the meeting is necessary. Could using the chat function or something similar on your preferred platform, for example, Teams, give you the same or maybe a better outcome?

If the answer is a meeting would be best, then read on for tips to help you make it a productive one.

Let's begin with the first stage… before the meeting

Some people falsely believe that the only important part of the meeting is the actual meeting. To make it valuable for all attendees, it is important to spend time organising the meeting well so that no time is wasted when the meeting takes place.

As the organiser of the meeting, remember to book both a physical meeting room and an online meeting via your preferred platform. Send both the online and in-person meeting locations to every person attending the meeting as you never know when there will be a last-minute change to a person's circumstances.

Post any documents related to your meeting on your organisation's preferred platform to ensure all attendees can access them. For example, Teams or a shared folder on One Drive.

By preparing well for the meeting, you're then able to focus on the communication and expectations that take place during the meeting.

Now you're ready for the actual meeting

At the beginning of the meeting, allow a short grace period to enable participants to log into the virtual meeting space and arrive at the physical meeting room. There are usually participants who are delayed so check your email and messages to find out if and why anyone may be running late. If you're holding the meeting on Zoom, check the waiting room in case a participant is waiting there.

Once participants have arrived, introduce everyone then start the meeting by explaining how the meeting will run and what you expect from the participants.

Decide in advance how questions can be asked from the two locations – online and in person. If necessary, have a support person monitoring 'chat' questions if this is what you have decided upon.

If you have thought through the stages of your meeting and how you want everyone to interact, you should be able to clearly communicate this from the outset.

This helps the attendees understand the expectations and how the meeting will run. If this is not communicated clearly from the start, then your attendees will be less likely to engage.

As the meeting progresses, make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to speak. If there has been silence from a person, invite them to contribute to the conversation.

If the conversation turns to something within the meeting room, be aware that remote participants may not know what you're referring to. So make sure that you explain what you are talking about as soon as it happens.

If your meeting runs for longer than 45 minutes, consider taking a break. Staring at a screen for prolonged periods of time can cause virtual fatigue. A five-minute break will help everyone come back refreshed and ready to engage.

With an engaged team, it's important to end the meeting well.

At the end of the meeting, thank everyone for their attendance and invite feedback from them. You will need to decide how you want the feedback provided (again, something that is best thought through prior to the meeting). Where possible, include that feedback into future meetings.

Ensure that everyone is clear as to their action items and post them with the other meeting information so that attendees can revisit them if required.

It's well and good to say that you need to factor in preparation for your meeting, not just organising a day/time/location.  But there is a four-letter word that may prevent this from happening… time. How are you going to factor in the time to be super organised?

It's all about fine tuning the structure of the meeting so that everyone is able to contribute and feel heard.

People like to feel that their time isn't wasted. By ensuring you have a clear structure and you are organised, then you are more likely to have a productive meeting. This in turn means that everyone is clear at the end of the meeting as to what they need to do.

Even if attendees need to check, they know where to find a record of the action items. A win-win for the whole team.

Although it may seem like you're juggling quite a few balls in preparing and running a hybrid meeting, being organised helps you to ensure that clear communication is happening at all stages – before, during and at the end of the meeting – and you have control of those juggling balls.


Here are 3 more articles to help you communicate effectively in meetings:



Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. Her programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.
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